Why did MPs debate animal testing and non-animal research methods?

Petitions Committee

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The petitions

Two petitions asked the Government to ban animal testing.

The first petition received 109,378 signatures. It said:

"Radically divert funding and evolve policy to implement the use of NAMs in all regulatory toxicity tests. Actively encourage use of NAMs, noting that this data is of superior human relevance compared to animal tests data. Establish clear pathways to develop & validate NAMs and end the use of animals."
Maria, petition creator

The second petition received 31,749 signatures. It said:

"Dogs display a range of emotions, and their cognitive abilities are complex and advanced. Dogs in laboratories are forced to endure not only psychological trauma due to their restrictive environment but can also undergo harmful experiments that cause pain and suffering."
Will Young, petition creator
Image of celebrity Will Young.

The Petitions Committee scheduled a debate on these petitions in the House of Commons on Monday 19 February 2023 at 4.30pm.

House of Commons debate

Opening the debate Elliot Colburn MP said:

"The UK purports to be a nation of animal lovers, and I truly believe that it is, but we need to ensure that we update our laws to truly reflect that fact.
"I ask the Government to invest in and fund NAMs properly by reallocating existing funds and promoting collaboration.
"They have an incredible ability to bring together the industry, researchers, advocacy groups, campaigners and others to create a road map and a strategy so we can truly say that the UK does not need to use animal testing methods any more.
"We can stop the use of animals and hold ourselves up to an incredibly high international standard as a nation of animal lovers."
Image of Elliot Colburn MP

The Government's response

The Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffiths MP, responded to the debate on behalf of the Government. Watch or read his full speech.

He wrote to Cat Smith MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, setting out the announcements he made during the debate:

"More can be done to speed up the development of non-animal methods. Therefore, I have requested that we double our investment in research to achieve these approaches next year. The investment will reach £20m across the system in 2024/25.
"In addition to this, the government will be publishing a plan to accelerate the development, validation, and uptake of technologies and methods to reduce reliance on the use of animals in science.
"This will be led by a cross-government group that will consult stakeholders in industry, academia, and charities to develop a detailed plan, which will be published in the summer.
"We will also restart the public attitudes to animal research survey, which was unfortunately delayed by the pandemic. The next survey will take place in the coming months, and the results will be published this autumn.
"Furthermore, the Home Office has agreed to increase the licence fees required to perform regulated procedures involving animals. The Home Office will also review the duration of these licences to ensure they are appropriate."
Andrew Griffiths MP

Closing statement

Elliot Colburn MP finished the debate:

"The restarting of the public attitudes survey, the doubling of investment next year, the Home Office review of licence duration and fees, and that all-important plan are excellent steps in the right direction.
"I am grateful that [the Minister] was able to make some announcements during the debate, and I am sure that the organisations that are represented in the Public Gallery and that briefed Members will want to engage with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in order to feed into the plan.
"I am very grateful for that announcement. As we have made clear, if we do not make any progress, we will be back next year talking about exactly the same thing, because that is what the petitioners expect of us."

Watch or read the debate